“$44 in yogurt???” That was my first thought when I saw the results of our monthly grocery bill tracking. But let’s get to how this started.
So last month, we ran an interesting experiment – I saved all of our grocery receipts so I could micro-analyze the grocery bill. October seemed like a good month – no travel, no big holidays, a nice standard month in the SSC household. Here is how it all broke down:
|Fruit & veggies (frozen and fresh)||113.81|
|Bread & tortillas||16.36|
|Drink mix and juice||23.38|
|Frozen Prepared meal||29.51|
WHOA, WHOA, whoa…. $44 on yogurt?! Yogurt! OK, I admit, everyone is the household is a yogurt fiend. The kids love it, it’s a good source of protein and Mr. SSC and I have some every morning for breakfast, and I might have more for dinner or for dessert. So, I started doing some math and calculated that Mr. SSC accounts for ~$17 of that, or about a third of our household yogurt budget. That’s reasonable since it’s breakfast for a month, so not too shabby. Also I account for roughly the same amount since I’m mainly a “meat avoider” and get a lot of my protein through dairy. So that leaves the kids to account for the other third. However, they eat the “cheaper” non-Greek style yogurt, and they each probably have at least a serving of yogurt a day. It’s good to know the SSC household keeps the yogurt industry running.
Ideally, I want our grocery budget to be around $500/month. Looking at the categories I did notice some areas where we could improve, and where the financial improvements would most likely lead to some health improvements also!
Desserts/adult snacks ($47.72) – My weakness is ice cream, and this month I discovered puffed pastry… which isn’t cheap. More nights then I care to admit, I took some puffed pastry, cut up an apple or nectarine to lay atop it, and baked it. So delicious! And not overly caloric. I had to quit cold turkey. Mr. SSC loves chips and salsa… so pretty much this is $48 of crap food. Some goes towards chips for Mr. SSC’s lunches, but it’s still in the junk category. This can easily be cut back, and our waistlines will be happy! Again, even if we scale this back 2/3 we could free up an additional $384 a year.
Protein bars ($33.33) – Yeah, these are expensive. We try and stock up when they’re on sale, but that’s typically not often. Again, this gets to a breakfast and convenience issue. Mr. SSC has a protein bar and yogurt for breakfast 4-5 days a week. I usually have a bar 5-6 days a week (I eat them on the go on the weekends too). So let’s say 10/week, or ~45 bars/month, That’s about $0.75/bar which is about right. I’m okay with this, because currently we don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning. Thinking about it – Mr. SSC is spending about $1.50/day on breakfast between yogurt and a bar, so I’d say that’s not too bad.
Frozen/prepared meals ($29.51) – I’m a working mom, and sometimes I cheat… I don’t always have time to whip up a gourmet meal for the kids in 5 minutes while the three year old is grabbing on my leg, and I’m holding the baby, so I keep some prepared foods on hand. And the rest of the cost is frozen/ take-out pizza… Mr. SSC likes pizza, and I’m allergic to red sauce, so we don’t really see it to be worth our time to make pizza from scratch for one person. We try to buy healthier versions of prepared food, so that probably costs a little extra too.
Drink mix and juice ($23.38) – This is a little ridiculous since it’s basically an extravagance and not needed and the drink mixes provide no health benefit. The three eldest in the house are addicted to lemonade of the sugar-free kind. We don’t drink soda, and the kids only very occasionally have juice, so water is our main drink… but we get bored of water. Maybe there are some cheaper, ways to liven up the taste of water? Perhaps keeping a pitcher of water in the fridge with fresh fruit in it? Also making tea the regular way instead of with mixes could be a big saver. If we cut 2/3 of that budget down we could free up an additional $192/year — not too shabby.
Meat ($134.06) – How do we spend so much on meat if I’m a “meat avoider” you’re asking? That’s $4.50/day on meat. Great googly-moogly that seems high, so where is that coming from? Mr. SSC packs his lunch each day so there is lunch meat to factor in, which is roughly 1-1.5 lbs a week. He loves sandwiches and on the weekends, he has time to “fancy ‘em up” so he eats a lot of lunch meat. We get other meats that are on sale for eating throughout the week, but most of that is from ground chicken, and chicken quarters. Although at $1/lb that’s not adding a lot, maybe $4/week from chicken quarters, the rest could be from $4/lb ground chicken. We use it in stuffed peppers, nachos (oh so tasty junk food habits), taco nights, and as a substitute for ground beef in pasta and lasagna type dishes. Typically two nights a week I will have a light dinner – usually yogurt and veggies, so Mr. SSC tends to buy steak or pork chops – I think this may be where most of the high cost factors in. I’ve seen Mr. SSC gobble down roughly $10 of meat at a meal. We could probably scale this back by 1/3, which could lead to freeing up $482/year.
Alcohol ($13.97) – Mr. SSC loves beer. Mostly he brews his own, but sometimes he gets too busy… so I think this is reasonable.
Coffee seems high ($22.40), but maybe not. We buy whole beans mostly, but aren’t coffee snobs, so when the beans we like are on sale, we stock up. That portion of the budget might have room to be trimmed, but probably not since we typically only buy when it’s on sale. This does look like a stock up amount though. At ~$4/lb on sale, that would get about 5 lbs, so next month coffee will most likely be under $10 if we get any at all.
We could easily trim more money by couponing, but I don’t have the patience at this stage of life. We tend to buy meat that is on sale, which helps, and seasonal fruits and veggies.
Looking at the first pass cuts though, we could easily save ourselves ~$88/month which is ~$1,060/year. This isn’t totally eliminating categories, but merely realizing, we’re probably overindulging in a category and can reduce it by 1/3 – 2/3. By not eliminating it totally, we still get to have our little indulgences, but just reign them in and appreciate them more. Mr. SSC can’t believe that we just theoretically trimmed $1,000 from our yearly budget just by doing some minor analysis. When we have time to plan our meals, strategically shop more so than we do now, and coupon some, we will probably be able to pull this amount down even more.
I’m curious – what stands out to you, and how do our totals look compared to yours? Ideally, I think $500/month is reasonable for our family. Do you have any ideas that can help us cut down?